Sometimes the most interesting dialogue heard at Albuquerque City Council meetings comes from public comments. True to this, the Sept. 7 regular meeting had more than its fair share of curious comments as well as providing a venue to discuss issues like ART, a controversial waste transfer station and other salient civic matters.
One man said he shaved his head in protest of the shabby job the Department of Justice is doing with the reforms within in the Albuquerque Police Department. He also shaved in protest of the upcoming National Rifle Association sharpshooting contest coming to Albuquerque. This event draws law enforcement from all over the country to compete in shooting competitions. “Killer cops contribute nothing,” he said.
Another couple of speakers showed a video if a recent West Side community meeting, then accused Councilor Ken Sanchez of hiring an actor to speak out in favor of the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. Councilor Sanchez replied to the accusation, saying he did not hire an actor.
Dinah Vargas showed a video of Council President Dan Lewis attending the local Donald Trump rally, calling it offensive because of Trump’s views on Mexicans. She asked Lewis what she should tell her daughter about her skin color being dirty. She was given additional time to speak—from the next speaker’s time slot—but that did not go over well when she called the Council, and in specific Councilor Lewis, corrupt. When the next person gave her his time as well, Councilor Lewis called for her to be escorted out of the chambers and then called for a short recess.
Regular commenter Don Schrader began his two minutes by calling the biblical Samson a suicide bomber and a mass murderer. That is one way to get the Council’s attention. He ended his time with a stern warning to read the Bible with extreme caution in order to “separate its poison from its wisdom.”
Councilors passed a resolution ordering a Central business and property owners’ summit for those along the proposed $119 million ART rapid-transit route. The reason for the meet-up would be to discuss possible construction issues such as business access, parking, left hand turn limitations and associated issues. The summit has to happen by Oct. 1 with the Council to be updated on progress garnered by the gathering at their Nov. 7 meeting “It is important that we involve the community,” Sanchez said. “The public needs to be aware of what is happening.” The resolution also asks Mayor Richard Berry to submit a financial plan to the Council as well as a contingency plan for funding the construction project and its daily operations.
Regular commenter Don Schrader began his two minutes by calling the biblical Samson a suicide bomber and a mass murderer. That is one way to get the Council’s attention.
Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan also made a short ART presentation. He said federal construction funding for the project is solid, even if it is not yet congressionally approved or in city coffers at this point in time. He said the city is putting up a full force effort to keep people informed about progress on the project, with government representatives on the ground talking to businesses along the route. There is also an official website; Riordan said he is open to other ways to get people information as well.
Earlier in the day Mayor Berry signed a construction contract with local contractor Bradbury Stamm to begin project construction. All of this is going on while the US 10th District Court of Appeals is considering an appeal of a lower court’s decision to allow the project to move forward. Public comment centered around the proposed bus stop canopy design that was seemingly done without public input.
Garbage In or Garbage Out
Councilors set a full hearing for the Oct. 17 meeting to debate a request by the city administration to add a solid waste transfer station at the intersection of Edith and Comanche in the city’s mid-North Valley. The proposed transfer station will allow garbage trucks to unload at that location instead of making costly trips out to the West Mesa landfill. Opponents say that adding a solid waste transfer station at the proposed location would be dangerous, noisy and unhealthy for area residents, possibly lowering property values, too. City officials say the new transfer station is needed to handle the large amount of trash city residents generate. The transfer station would be indoors, have air filters and would save the city $75 million over the next 20 years in operating costs, while also reducing the city’s carbon footprint.
• Councilors approved giving the City Auditor the power to hire and fire employees in their office. Councilor Diane Gibson said this will give the city auditor’s office more autonomy and independence to do its job of financial oversight.
• A resolution passed by the Council outlines how to spend the anticipated $14 million garnered from one-eighth of one percent gross receipts tax revenue earmarked for BioPark improvements.
• The Council again deferred talking about setting up a regional folk festival and setting a 25 percent goal for solar energy usage by 2025.
• City Councilors appointed Brian White to the Cable Franchise and Hearing Board. The board represents cable consumers and allows for local input on a number of issues including how to spend the millions collected from the city’s cable users. The board is made up of three members appointed by the mayor with the advice and consent of the Council.